Bangui/Dakar/New York — Two planes carrying vital supplies for thousands of families displaced by violence in the Central African Republic were finally able to land earlier today in Bangassou, UNICEF said, after weeks of intensified conflict had blocked the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the southeast.
The planes, which left the capital Bangui on Thursday morning, were carrying 5.6 tons of emergency supplies including soap, blankets, mats, water buckets and cooking material for distribution to 800 households on Friday. The supplies, provided by UNICEF, will be distributed by the organization ACTED.
"We've been trying to reach thousands of families in dire need of humanitarian assistance for over a week now, but the roads have become far too dangerous because of escalating violence," said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative in Central African Republic. "Given how critical the situation had become in the southeast, the only option was an airlift to get lifesaving supplies to children and families in these hard to reach areas.
Recent clashes between armed groups have hit civilians hard in Bria, Bangassou, Alindao, Mobaye and other villages across the southeast region, leaving 300 people dead and 200 injured, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
An estimated 100,000 people have fled their homes in search of safety, in what is the country's largest population displacement since 2014. In Bria, the vast majority of the inhabitants - 40,000 people out of a total population of 47,000 - have already fled, with most of them being children.
In the hardest hit areas, roads are accessible only under UN military escort due to violence and insecurity, and truck drivers are reluctant to transport supplies, fearing for their lives.
UNICEF continues to call on all armed groups to give aid workers free and unimpeded access to civilian populations, so that life-saving supplies and services can be provided without delay.
UNICEF also fears that the latest wave of violence could unravel previous commitments made by armed groups to release all children and refrain from any new recruitment. In May 2015, leaders of 10 armed groups in CAR signed a commitment for the release of children. Since then, more than 7,000 children have been released from their ranks.
UNICEF's humanitarian response for children in the Central African Republic is 30 per cent funded for 2017. Out of US $46.3 million requested, less than US $14 million has been received.